REVIEW: Justice League International Annual #1

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The JLI has been run under the bus a couple times now, with team members dropping like flies. Can a different creative team for the annual bring about less death? Major Spoilers takes the plunge to find out!

Justice League International Annual #1
Writers: Geoff Johns and Dan Didio
Artist: Jason Fabok
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

Previously in Justice League International Booster Gold has tried time and time again to keep the JLI together after they tried to garner approval from the United Nations and dealt with the death of one teammate as well as sidelining injuries to several others. The team has been disbanded at least once, and the title’s canceled, but that can’t stop them from one more story!

FROM JUSTICE LEAGUE UNEXCEPTIONAL…

I first got into comics through Kevin Smith’s run on Green Arrow and the run of Justice League International with Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire. When Justice League: Generation Lost was announced I was far more excited than was reasonable. When that title ended and Batman showed Booster an image for the Justice League International on his computer screen accompanied by the announcement of a new JLI ongoing, I made that image my desktop background. When it was revealed that title would be part of The New 52 I made that the first new title I added to my pull list, but tragically the Dan Jurgens-written title just never managed to garner my interest, and with poetic justice it was the first New 52 title I dropped from my pull list. I continued to read it off and on, but it consistently failed to tell a compelling story, despite having a fantastic cast of characters. With the news that Geoff Johns was writing this issue (apparently accompanied by Dan Didio, which is fine) I decided to bite the bullet and pick it up, despite a steep $4.99 price tag. I loved Johns’ run on Booster Gold, and with the indication that this would tie into Justice League and the Trinity War, I even got excited for it.

TO JUSTICE LEAGUE EXTRAORDINARY!

This title features two characters in my top ten favorite superheroes; Booster Gold (#2) and Guy Gardner (#5ish). With writing from Johns and Didio, these characters finally shine in the way that they’re capable of, with fast-paced dialogue and a well-crafted story. The main meat of this story revolves around Kevin Kho, aka OMAC, a character who has always felt out of place in this title. OMAC has finally been corrupted again (or has been corrupted all along) by Brother Eye and is trying to use the JLI’s computer to reconnect with the primary Brother Eye satellites, following some new programmer’s directive.

As I hoped for with Geoff Johns involved, Booster Gold gets a chance to shine in this story. What I didn’t expect was for a further explanation of the fate of Skeets in The New 52; there have been a few moments when Booster asked Skeets for something or thanked Skeets, but we never actually saw if he was talking to the yellow and blue winged robot of the prelaunch DCU. In this we find out Skeets no longer has physical housing, but is “The Skeets protocols, the ultimate 25th century defense against viruses.” While I’m a little bummed that we won’t have a cute little robot flying around anymore, I’m alright with this explanation and giving Skeets a physical housing is an easy enough task for a future writer of Booster. The real question, however, is whether Booster will have a future writer–at the end of this issue he encounters his future self attempting to change the timeline and prevent what is probably the Trinity War, but unfortunately the event that apparently starts the dominoes–Superman and Wonder Woman gettin’ all makey-outy–has already taken place. For some reason, as future-Booster informs present-Booster, this causes both Boosters to “cease to exist,” so I don’t really know what is going to happen with him. It isn’t a convincing death scene at all, so I’m sure Booster will be back at some point in Trinity War, but I was left feeling a little confused and empty by this.

The interaction between future Booster and present Booster serves to create the most satisfying moment in this issue; future Booster begins by telling present Booster the future of his teammates (three of whom form The Global Guardians, which makes me happy) and initially stands in shadow, necessitating a page turn reveal. I was hoping it would turn out to be Rip Hunter, who I believe we haven’t seen since the relaunch, but future Booster made more sense within the story.

TWO FACED ART

Annuals have a lot of pages, which means a lot of work for an artist, especially one who inks his own pencils as the credits would imply. While most of the pages in this issue are incredibly gorgeous, there are a few shots (mostly involving Guy Gardner’s face) that Fabok just doesn’t seem to have down. Otherwise I really enjoyed his pencils; there are a couple faces that are strongly reminiscent of Maguire’s work on the old JLI, and I really liked how he drew Lady Godiva. Another amusing similarity to Kevin Maguire–the issue has a lot of sparsely detailed backgrounds, and Maguire has expressed a strong disinterest in drawing backgrounds.

BOTTOM LINE: JUSTICE HAS BEEN SERVED

It was nice to see Geoff Johns return to writing Booster Gold, considering the quality of his post-52 run (sidebar; It gets really confusing referring to things in relation to both the story 52 and The New 52. I’ve had several conversations over the past three weeks in which people have tried to correct me thinking I was referring to the other event). This issue was far better than Dan Jurgens’ JLI, but while it had some really satisfying moments upon reflection it didn’t really redeem the JLI, as they basically just failed again. Perhaps that’s supposed to be the story beat–the down on their luck Justice League that can’t catch a break, but I’m tired of seeing characters I love lose. The setup for a new Brother Eye story and its probable tie-in to The Trinity War is exciting, but it still isn’t enough to push this book above three and a half stars–not a bad rating, but it wasn’t quite the issue I was hoping for.

Rating: ★★★½☆